Cheltenham Day 3: Envoi Allen, Paisley Park Return

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Halftime at Cheltenham.

Two days down and two to go at The Festival™ supporting WellChild. Thursday is for the diehard and dedicated. Arguably, the weakest and quietest day at a traditional Festival, this year’s version offers a stellar renewal of the Ryanair and a solid renewal of the Stayers Hurdle. 

If we were there, we would enjoy the relative room to maneuver, checking on old friends, ‘Hello Richard…Hello Matt…Hello Adam…Hello Francis…Hello Adrian…Hello Arkle…’

Race 1. 9:20. Marsh Novices’ Chase. The Golden Miller. Grade 1. $180,000. 2 miles, 3 furlongs, 168 yards. 

Envoi Allen, the most high-profile horse to leave Gordon Elliott, puts his undefeated mark on the line for new trainer Henry De Bromhead. The 7-year-old French-bred is 12-for-12, including the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. The rock star among rock stars.

The Picks: Envoi Allen, Chatham Street Lad, Blackbow.

 

Race 2. 9:55. Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. Grade 3. $103,000. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards. 

Another handicap. Another minefield. Full disclosure, I have very little opinion or gut feeling on this one and the replays started blending together into a haze of gray. 

Pick a name. Throw a dart. Enjoy the challenge. 

The Picks: Come On Teddy, Champagne Platinum, Bushypark.

 

Race 3. 10:30. Ryanair Chase. Grade 1. $363,000. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards. 

Fascinating renewal of a Festival tradition. Allaho could still be improving for Willie Mullins. Chris’s Dream has plied his trade at the top of the sport, including a run in last year’s Gold Cup. And then there are old friends, Festival stalwarts, Kalashnikov, Melon, Min and Samcro.

The Picks: Allaho, Kalashnikov, Melon.

 

Race 4. 11:05. Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. Grade 1. $329,000. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards. 

The good win. The great return. Paisley Park tries to regain his crown in the Stayers’ Hurdle after winning the 3-mile feature in 2019 and finishing seventh in it last year. The 9-year-old has gradually returned from an irregular heartbeat, winning the Long Walk Hurdle in his most recent start. Cool horse. Tough race with last year’s winner, Lisnagar Oscar, old favorite, Lil Rockerfeller and Christmas Hurdle winner Flooring Porter. 

And a shout out to American-breds, Lil Rockerfeller, a Pennsylvania son of Hard Spun who has banked $659,014 and Main Fact, a son of Blame, who has rung the bell 12 times for $178,547. We can’t raise tough horses? Perhaps, it’s our training facilities and other factors. They’re going strong at 10 and 8, respectively, combining for 77 starts.

The Picks: Flooring Porter, Fury Road, Paisley Park.

 

Race 5. 11:40. Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase. Grade 3. $113,000. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards. 

Cue the band, another handicap, another minefield. 

The Picks: Farclas, The Shunter, Dead Right. 

 

Race 6. 12:15. Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. The Dawn Run. Grade 2. $92.500. 2 miles, 179 yards. 

Seems like Willie Mullins should own a race like this. He sends out Gauloise, Glens Of Antrim, Hook Up and Pont Aval. First-call Paul Townend opts for the once-beaten Gauloise. 

Key races? Telmesomethinggirl finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Wednesday winner Heaven Help Us. Hook Up finished 7 1/2 lengths behind Tuesday star Appreciate It.

The Picks: Gauloise, Telmesomethinggirl, Mighty Blue.

 

Race 7. 12:50. Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Sponsored by the JRL Group). $72,000. 3 miles, 2 furlongs. 

In jail or out of jail? 

The Picks: Milanford, Mount Ida, Shantou Flyer.

As for yesterday…

We ducked and jived and stayed out of jail. Just. Which is a constant refrain on the way home from Cheltenham each day, it seems like no one has ever climbed in the Marlborough Football Bus and said, ‘I’m skint.’ It’s always, ‘Big score in the last…got out of jail…place pot…jack pot…bobbed and weaved and broke even…’ Then on the way to the races the next morning, as we roll through Stow on the Wold and George Baker asks, “Anybody need the cash machine?” Everybody pipes up, we pile out and punch out our four letter codes with dreams attached. It’s a beautiful game.  

OK, as for yesterday…

In the Ballymore, top pick Gaillard Du Mesnil proved no match for second choice Bob Olinger, the two Irish favorites returned $11 for the exacta. Third choice Bravemansgame completed a chalky trifecta of $17.80. No kudos there. 

In the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, favorite and top pick Monkfish survived some distracted decisions early and a shuddering blunder at the last to win. Trainer Willie Mullins said it was the most nerve-wracking race he’s ever watched. Now, that’s saying something. Third choice The Big Breakaway finished third. 

The Coral Cup looked tricky and proved tricky. We missed the mark – wide – as Heaven Help Us upset the handicap hurdle, returning $69.20 for breeder/trainer Paul Hennessy, who has got to be the first and only trainer to win the Greyhound Derby and a race at Cheltenham. “She’s my Enable,” Hennessy said after the race. Classic. Proving yet again that National Hunt racing is the stuff of dreams.

Third choice Put The Kettle On gamely won a rough and tumble version of the Betway Queen Mother, returning $16.80. Top choice and favorite Chacun Pour Soi failed to fire and wound up third. And how about Sceau Royal, staying on his feet when smashed into the rail, a stuntman move in a Hollywood movie.

If you boxed our three choices in the Glenfarclas Cross Country, you were rewarded with a $152 trifecta. Boy, that looks clear as day now as Tiger Roll, Easysland and Some Neck looked like the only logical contenders. Sometimes we complicate things. I did not bet the trifecta. As for Tiger Roll, his legend continues to grow with his fifth win at Cheltenham. Through thick and thin, he’s done it all, joining Golden Miller and Quevega as the only horses to win five times at the Festival. Brilliant ride by Keith Donoghue to put the Tiger in the race early, he loved it, we loved it. 

Top choice On The Slopes ran well at 16-1 to finish fourth and return $9 for each-way bettors. I’ve always like Sky Pirate but talked myself out of it late in the game. Cool win for Nick Scholfield and Jonjo O’Neill. 

Had the exacta in reverse order in the Wetherbys Bumper as Rachael Blackmore lolled them to oblivion with a tepid pace and a timepiece of perfection on Sir Gerhard. Kilcruit closed but couldn’t make up the margin. The Willie Mullins’ exacta paid $13.40. Third choice Super Six ran big to finish fifth at 80-1. Tough game? Blackmore won the opener, hit the deck three times, then won the finale. 

Enjoy Day 3.